CEBU CITY -- The people have voted that the country's first automated election last May was "satisfactory" in terms of the voter registration system, information, vote-counting and peace and order, said the Social Weather Stations (SWS).

However, a survey it conducted also showed there were still voters who witnessed "election irregularities" like vote-buying, cheating in the counting of votes, flying voters, and harassment of voters.

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The SWS conducted five surveys this year among registered voters and one survey among poll watchers or Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) from all over the country.

Three out of four adult Filipinos said they were satisfied and 15 percent were dissatisfied with the general conduct of elections.

Poll watchers were even more satisfied with the elections, with 78 percent expressing approval, compared to 51 percent among adults in general.

The figure is the "highest ever," said SWS president Mahar Mangahas in his presentation at the University of Cebu in Banilad, Cebu City Friday morning.

Acceptance

"There was a very strong acceptance of the automated elections," he said.

He added that for the 2007 elections, there were only 51 percent who said they were satisfied with the conduct of elections and 32 percent were dissatisfied.

Institutions involved in the electoral process were also given high ratings, including the Commission on Elections (Comelec), the BEI, the Philippine National Police, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Despite the initial apprehensions over the implementation of the automated system by Comelec and Smartmatic, the respondents gave both institutions passing marks in terms of the system of registration, information dissemination, and counting of votes.

"On the question whether the Comelec can be trusted, little by little there was improvement (in the satisfaction ratings)," said Mangahas.

About 54 percent of respondents said they trusted Comelec's counting of the votes in the May 2007 elections. (The survey was also conducted in June 2007.)

This figure improved during another national survey conducted last month, with 68 percent of respondents saying they were satisfied with the automated count.

Honest

"In terms of believability of the official results, some people who were not expecting it said, 'Honest pala sila,'" he added.

Lapu-Lapu City Election Officer Ferdinand Gujilde, one of the reactors to the presentation, said he welcomes the positive results of the surveys on the Comelec's performance of its duties, despite complaints from losing politicians.

"We know there were a lot of complaints, a lot of frustration among the voters because of the long lines and overcrowding," he said.

"The culprit here is that Comelec and Smartmatic tried to cut down on expenses on the use of the PCOS (Precinct Count Optical Scan) machines. The Comelec was forced to cluster precincts," he added.

The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) and its accredited poll watch group, the Cebu-Citizens' Involvement and Maturation in People's Empowerment and Liberation (C-Cimpel), received better ratings from voters, in terms of their honesty when the votes were being counted, from 64 percent in June 2007 to 75 percent in last month's survey.

"Passing grades" were also given to the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (Lente) for guarding the canvassing of votes and BEI-teachers for ensuring clean and orderly elections.

Poll watchers noted the counting and consolidation of votes last May were better than in previous elections. According to the survey, satisfaction ratings ranged from 52 percent to as high as 87 percent.

Better

Asked whether the task of ensuring peace and order was better delivered in the 2010 elections than three years ago, poll watchers also noted a marked improvement. The rating for June 2007 was 54 percent; in last month's survey, this went up to 81 percent.

Mangahas said voter-respondents still witnessed election irregularities, like vote-buying, flying voters and harassment of voters.

"There was a lump (increase) in 2001, from 2004 to 2007. But there were voters who witnessed irregularities during the 2010 elections. This did not improve matters," he said.

"There must be continued work to reduce those other kinds of problems. The machine addresses the counting portion (of the elections)," he said.

'Creative'

In an interview, Gujilde said there are two components for the elections, the people and the system.

"The system worked so well, this took away dagdag bawas (shaving of votes) and other forms of cheating," he said.

"But the people can be very creative that they can come up with different mechanisms to cheat. Cheating will always raise its ugly head," he added.

Gujilde said the agency is considering tapping more non-government organizations to help ensure cleaner and more peaceful elections.

The SWS website said 1,200 adults were surveyed from June 25-28, 2010, using face-to-face interviews. (BAP of Sun.Star Cebu)